The Game Has Changed – The Evolution of Organic Reach in Social Media Marketing
Ah, the good old days of organic social media marketing. When platforms like Facebook and Twitter began to take off near the end of the first decade of the 20th century, digital marketers quickly began to discover the value these platforms provided. Not only were people able to make new connections, but they could also build an online community with their friends and families via the internet. It wasn’t long before brands also started to recognize and harness the advantages social media could bring to their businesses. Businesses were able to simply create a page/profile to represent their brand, and with one consistent voice were able to post and share content, build a following (remember Facebook “Fans”?), and engage with their community in the same way users talk to their family members or friends. It didn’t matter if you were McDonald’s or Bob’s local hardware store – if you had a following of any kind, it was as simple as posting a status or tweet, and your Fans were all but guaranteed to see it in their social media feeds. Oh, how times have changed.
The Evolution of Social Media
As the social media and online landscapes have evolved over time, things have become much more complex for digital marketers. Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have learned how to monetize their platforms with algorithms, new advertising placements and more. What else has changed? User behavior. As more and more brands started to catch wind of the benefits of organic social media marketing, the user experience on these platforms became convoluted with excessive messaging from brands. The creators behind these platforms recognized this as a threat to their most important commodity – their users. If the user experience began to deteriorate, platforms like Facebook and Twitter would start to lose their user base. However, that wasn’t the only red flag in the eyes of the almighty Mark Zuckerberg and other social platform leaders. Under the status quo, brands were able to freely reach an audience that they had accumulated over time, without paying anything… and that simply wouldn’t do for the owners and operators of these tech giants.
Zap – There Goes Your Social Media Reach
In 2015, Facebook began to deprioritize posts that it deemed too promotional in nature. This was an early sign of changing times as it relates to organic social media. As the years progressed, brands experienced more and more of a reduction in the reach of their posts and engagement from their communities. Then, in 2018, Zuckerberg announced another change in the Facebook & Instagram algorithm that would put “friends and family” at the “core of the experience”, and admitting that posts from brands and businesses were still permeating the user experience too much for users’ liking. As the effects of this change began to take shape, brands started to experience an even further reduction in their organic reach. As we now sit five years removed from this announcement, we can see that organic social media reach is basically next to nothing – a far cry from the power it once carried.
How Have Social Media Marketers Adjusted?
Those most in tune with the social media marketing landscape have known about these changes for years and have been adjusting their strategies along the way. However, we oftentimes encounter clients who understandably aren’t so dialed in to the current state of social media marketing. In their heads, social media works the same way now as it did 10 years ago. The expectation is to be able to post some content, receive a good reach, gain some followers, and hopefully gain new customers. This leads to a wide disparity in understanding of how modern social media platforms function and an opportunity for us as media stewards to guide clients in the right direction.
What is to Be Done About Organic Social Media?
The simple truth of social media marketing in 2022 and beyond is that it’s now a pay-to-play model. Sure, some social media posts might perform better than others, leading the algorithm to favor them and lead to an increased reach. There are best practices and strategies designed to help you get the most out of your organic social media strategy, including using short-form video, posting during the most optimal times of the day and days of the week, etc. However, the number one method of ensuring your social media posts are being seen by your followers is to support them with an advertising budget.
We advise our social media clients to support their organic strategies with a contingency media budget, because even a small amount of money can lead to vast improvements in reach and engagement on posts. Think of it as a toll road. By paying the small “toll”, your posts are free to navigate the social media platforms and reach the target audiences you intended from your organic social media strategy. But if you don’t pay the “toll”, you won’t get very much mileage out of your organic content. Whether supporting all posts with a media budget, or just a few select posts, sponsored or boosted posts can help take your organic social media strategy to the next level.
Reach Out to The Ward Group
Our media stewards are and always will be dialed in to the current social media landscape. We look forward to working with you to unlock the potential of your organic social media strategy. Contact The Ward Group today!